IRCC to implement internal changes based on the Gender Based Analysis Plus audit

Edana Robitaille
Published: November 26, 2022

CIC News has obtained an internal memorandum from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) containing recommendations based on the most recent Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA) audit, released by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).

The audit determines if government departments are using GBA when implementing policies and programs. This year’s audit also sought to discover what actions were taken following the 2015 audit.

The report concluded that there is no way for the government to know if the use of Gender Based Analysis Plus is achieving better gender equality outcomes for diverse groups of people.

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What is GBA Plus?

Gender Based Analysis was implemented in 1995 to help reveal and address the inequalities experienced by women and girls in government programs, activities, and initiatives. The GBA has since been renamed GBA Plus as it expanded to include other identity factors such as age, sexual orientation, disability, and geography, which may all intersect.

The report says the lack of information is largely due to missing government regulation in programs that would benefit from gender-based analysis as well as a lack of disaggregated data. This means that when it comes to GBA Plus, most departments are taking a one-size-fits-all approach to departmental GBA Plus policy and programs without taking additional intersecting factors into consideration and monitoring the outcomes.

Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) observed to OAG that there is an inconsistent understanding of the intersectional aspects of GBA Plus analysis. They report that sometimes, gender and sex were the only identity factors used in departmental results that report on GBA Plus impacts. Conversely, others used separate diversity factors to disaggregate data, without considering sex or gender.

Without accurate data, there is no way to know if GBA Plus works as it was intended and could lead to governmental policies and programs that are less inclusive than they should be.

Other outcomes

The audit also credits difficulties with tight deadlines for developing policy initiatives, and a lack of review by senior management, with creating obstacles in the implementation of GBA policy. There is also an apparent lack of capacity within government departments to train and raise awareness of GBA Plus and why it is necessary.

OAG called on WAGE to provide more support in the form of training, practical tools, and guidance for departments and agencies in applying GBA Plus. In response, WAGE told the OAG that they have filled this need since 2016 by offering over 30 training sessions to departments, agencies, and interdepartmental committees. They also developed over 15 tools and guides, including:

  • In 2020, the department collaborated with the Canada School of Public Service to deliver guidance to support departments and agencies in applying GBA Plus to their pandemic response measures.
  • In 2021, the department developed additional guidance on identity factors including a step‑by‑step guide for conducting GBA Plus.

IRCC response to report recommendations

In response to the OAG report, IRCC has made some internal recommendations to better incorporate GBA Plus into its daily operations.

IRCC first recommends reestablishing the department's GBA Plus working group to create an equity policy community of practice and develop data standards for the collection, use and integration of disaggregated data. It also plans to refresh the 2011 GBA policy, with more emphasis on anti-racism, intersectionality and digital transformation.

The department says the Chief Data Officer Branch is currently developing a disaggregated data framework to better fill gaps in ethno-cultural diversity and intersecting factors, including gender. IRCC will use the new data map to support its anti-racism work, including the GBA Plus impacts on new and existing programs and initiatives.

The OAG also recommends that governmental departments monitor and publicly report on the status of GBA Plus implementation.

IRCC says they are already doing these reports in alignment with regulations set out by the TBS and the Immigration, Refugees Protection Act (IRPA), the federal legislation that regulates immigration in Canada.

Further, the report recommends that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) set clear guidance to departments on GBA Plus reporting to better set measurable goals. This will ensure that GBA Plus analysis is accurate and will set the tone for more effective implementation in future.

What is the OAG?

The OAG is tasked with providing parliament with impartial information on government programs and activities to help measure their success. This information assists in holding the government accountable and ensures it is delivering on program targets and objectives.

The OAG worked closely with the TBS, the Privy Council Office (PCO), and WAGE to determine if the 2015 audit objectives on gender equality had been met. The TBS is responsible for accountability and ethics in government departments and helps create a standard of transparency for governmental departments.

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